September 11, 2011
I wasn’t completely honest in my Mother’s Day column about the orphan lambs. Three significant players were deliberately left out.Apparently, some readers think my stories are too sad. At least that’s the feedback I get. That particular column wasn’t a sad one, although mention of those lambs might have taken it that direction. Still, their story deserves to be told. Pam had her twin boys on a Friday night, uneventfully, except that there was more vaginal bleeding than normal. The next morning I found her down and unable to rise, but her gums were a normal pink color. Occasionally, a ewe will develop milk fever, a common condition of dairy cows. Pam was treated for that, but an hour later she was gone.Bad things rarely happen at a good time, and this was no exception. Lambing season this year overlapped both Dr. Sara’s and Dr. April’s maternity leaves, so it was a bit stressful at times; Saturdays and Tuesdays were the worst. Short on time, I left the lambs in the pen with the dead ewe. There was a chill in the air that March morning and she was, after all, still warm.As I was finishing my chores, another discovery was made — a little lamb alone in a corner, cold and depressed, with the unmistakable look that she was thinking of leaving the living world.She was the victim of one of those “squirrelly” ewes I wrote about, number 850. This ewe loved one of her lambs, but only tolerated the other. If the loved lamb was nursing, the second lamb could steal some, but never was she allowed to nurse by herself. Even more heartbreaking, the little lamb was never allowed to lay by her mother. She sometimes rested by her sister, but more often than not, had to sleep by herself.This lamb was watched closely for the first few days after her family was turned out with the flock, and I thought she was doing OK. Evidently, I was wrong. Now out of time, I put her in the pen with the boys and their dead mother, split a bottle between the three, and went to the office. Returning that afternoon, I found the boys still snuggled by their mom, along with their new sister. When I realized that this was the first time the little ewe lamb lay close to a mother, even a dead one, as a purveyor of sad, I have to say, that was a “lump in the throat” moment.After I removed the ewe, the lambs didn’t make a fuss. They went back to their warm spot and hunkered together against the cold. In spite of their shaky start, however, the lambs didn’t give up, formed new bonds and a new family, and survived. Contrary to what most think about sheep, these lambs had a real will to live. I had a feeling I would write about them. I just didn’t know how or when.During the recent Allen County Fair, I had a chance to visit with a young man who truly exemplifies the word “courage.” His name is Andy Kennedy.I have known Andy and his family for several years. They raise sheep on their farm south of Lima, and Andy helped me show my sheep at one of our first fairs.We were watching the Born and Raised in Allen County Market Lamb Show, and several lambs that Andy raised were in the show and doing extremely well. During our lively discussion about the lambs — I thought they looked nice, Andy was a bit of a critic — I accidentally bumped one of his levers. Andy, you see, uses a wheelchair. Nearly six years ago at the age of 17, he was seriously injured in a truck accident. Facing a devastating adversity that most people fear, like the lambs, Andy didn’t give up, but fought back and triumphed. He continues to help with the family sheep, was a superintendent in the sheep department at the fair, and recently received a degree in accounting.Surprisingly, Andy expressed some reservation about his career choice. “What would you rather be?” I asked.“A math teacher,” Andy replied.“Then be a math teacher,” I replied somewhat cavalierly. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t be that easy, plus the thought of more education at this time seemed daunting to Andy. “Substitute!” I countered.If that is what he really wants to do, if I were a school superintendent, I would hire Andy Kennedy every day I could. He’ll not only teach the kids about math, he’ll teach them much, much more about life. He’s already done that for me.Dr. John H. Jones operates a mixed animal practice in Delphos with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones.